Supporters of the new Affordable Care Act have recently launched the “Thanks Obamacare!” campaign to highlight the law’s positive aspects.
For the most part I agree with what Jonathan Cohn told Sarah Kliff about the political thinking behind this effort
The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn has stood out as a strong backer of the law who embraces the term openly, and has supported the president doing so as well. I e-mailed him this morning to ask him to explain his word choice. The question, he wrote back, is a “political” one.
“It seems to me that Obama is going to be associated with this law, for better or worse, come November,” Cohn continues. “Even if he wants to play it down, his critics will play it up. Given that, I assume he’s better off embracing that association — and reminding people what’s good about the law. He’s been doing a lot of that lately, as I imagine you’ve noticed.”
Obamacare is going to be talked about during the campaign. Obama can’t hide from it, so he might as well try to make it more popular.
Interestingly, several of the elements singled out for praise in this pro-ACA campaign messaging again demonstrate the almost unimaginable level of political malpractice the Obama administration committed in shaping the law.
Of the 10 things we should be “thanking” Obamacare for, five of them won’t really take effect until well after the 2012 election. We are supposed to thank the law for things it hasn’t actually done yet and won’t do until 2014. People simply aren’t going to be thankful for something that hasn’t happened yet.
It didn’t need to be this way. The Democrats could have started all or a large portion of the coverage expansion, such as the Medicaid expansion, before 2012. That at least would have produced several million people who could be genuinely thankful for the help they actually received. And it would have extended helpful relief to states burdened with Medicaid spending while the economy was still in a serious downturn. Instead the administration made the politically insane decision to focus on getting an arbitrary CBO score. As a result the law will provide very little direct benefit to people until at least 2014, after the 2012 election.
The only way to get people to be thankful for a law is not to run a messaging campaign telling them how it may possibly help them several years from now, but instead to have it actually help them now, when it matters.
Delaying the expansion of coverage until after not one, but two federal elections should be remembered as one of most idiotic political mistakes made by a major political party in decades.